• We'll be making a number of structural changes to the forums on Wednesday, 06.12.2023. No downtime is expected. Read more here.

B Info Other tutorial/coaching session: How to lead a modding team

Users who are viewing this thread

Amman d Stazia

Master Knight
There have been LOTS of really good mod projects which have got started, posted some juicy screenshots, and then...


This is just a little brainstormer thread - why is it that some mod projects fail?
How can one best avoid a mod just withering away?
Amman de Stazia said:
why is it that some mod projects fail?
People usually underestimate the amount of work, that is needed.
A few mods die, because it's just a too huge conversations (non medieval mods).
But I think, that most mods die, because of the scripting. It's much more work, than many think and I think that many "promising mods" don't even start at putting things in game, because the whole scripting is not the most favourite job of most modders. I'd even say, that it is even more time consuming than any moddeling or texturing (with some exceptions of course).
Amman de Stazia said:
How can one best avoid a mod just withering away?
You can't. Usually you see which mods won't be released ever at the day of its announcement.
yes and no - doing a really massive conversion like Last Days involves a lot of scripting.  Writing quests involves a lot of scripting.
However, there are two kinds of mod as far as this issue goes:
1) Native clones, where basically the meat stays the same, with the native quests, dialogues only mildly edited to remove references to Zendar or whatever, and the only changes are troop trees, items, party templates and party names.
2) Conversions, where the dialogue options are all updated, where the quests are re-written or replaced by totally new ones and the triggers, scripts and scene content are also updated.

(1) is easy - I've done heaps of small mods like this just for personal gratification.

(2) is hard and time consuming even when one knows how to do the scripting.  If one indulges in a bit of guesswork and trial-and-error, it borders on impossible and never-ending.

The regular updates, while great for native and great for modding potential, are a real annoyance when one is trying to do a (2) type mod.

Maybe the hardest part with scripting is that it can't be shared out very easily.  The python files all impact on each other to some extent, so it's not like I can say to you - "you do the scripts_py, and I'll re-write the simple_triggers stuff...."
One person has to do the scripting virtually solo.....
Highlander said:
Usually you see which mods won't be released ever at the day of its announcement.


mods take time and multiple versions to develop into total conversions, and when you have a large fan base willing to contribute models, you can achieve really spectacular results like TLD.

most new mods fail because they are unwilling to release a Native mod with new troops/items/parties/factions and maybe a few new features as a start. I think that is an important point, allows you to get feedback, get an idea of the amount of work involved, and see if you would really enjoy continuing to develop the projects.

Currently some mods that are growing really big before releasing anything are WildWest mod (whats the new name Highlander :razz:), Warhammer, and Warrior of Eternity. I guess at least two of the three will make a release, but unless you have well-defined boundaries of what you what to get done before first release, putting it off and continuing to add things can lead to a playable mod version never seeing light of day. Too bad really.
Cartread seems to have this 'working to a complete version without a smaller release or announcement' thing down :grin:
How can one best avoid a mod just withering away?

Methodology I guess. At the end of the day a mod depends solely on one or two devs, most people make the mistake on relying on contributions. Contributions do happen, this is a wonderfull community, TLD wouldn't be what it is without contributions, yada,yada yada...but some people just expect others to actually do all the grunt work. That is just wrong and while there are a few exceptions, it doesn't really happen.

Some mods are just plain too ambitious from day one. Me and TSN gave up on Biter Earth when we realized the effort was comparable  or even bigger( because of the painfull "working around the engine") than that of making a full game. I guess it's mostly because we wanted to make it an rpg, not really because it was a full setting conversion. Lot's of full conversions are happening sooner or later ( western mod anyone?)

One thing that I think it's a right spot, is that people try to work the engine and gameplay too much. While it's necessary to actually put new gameplay on a mod ( nobody enjoys "skins" that much), some people go too far. BE is an example, Darklands is an example oh well... you get the point.
For newbies it's usually a lack of appreciation for the time and quality of the activity. Most often people want to "make a mod" but actually don't like scripting, modelling or texturing. :razz: You actually need to enjoy the specific activities intrinsically, not just the result. Not something really understood until you've done a bit of it.

For more experienced folks it's just time, changing interests, priorities.

Probably because most modders start with models and textures. These create all of the great screenshots and create community interest. Then they get bored and give up before they even touch the code in the module system. In my opinion, as a software developer, the models and textures should be the last thing created for the mod. First the scripting should meet the demands of your plan.

Which leads to the second point. Mod modders probably don't have a plan, just a list of brainstorming ideas. A plan organizes the concrete features that you select or evolve from the brainstorming. Basic SDLC stuff.

Part of the reason that I haven't tried to make a full mod on my own is that I know I don't have the time to do it right. It would be doomed to failure even before I got started. I don't have the time to make a carefully crafted plan to implement. Maybe I will in the future?

Anyway, for anyone wanting to make a mod, just do something relative to this:
1. Brainstorm for ideas.
2. Select which ideas will be in release 1.0 (or 0.1 or whatever version system you use).
3. Develop those ideas into concrete things that will go into the module system.
  3b. Implement them in the module system!
4. Redevelop those ideas if they don't work out as expected. Don't be afraid to cut that feature out if it will take too much time or can't be done.
5. Test your ideas in action. You made them, but do they make sense in relation to the game?
6. When you are done, then start modeling and texturing.
Septa Scarabae said:
The Unofficial Mount & Blade Editor
Sad but true. That was literally a life-saver. It made the whole idea at least appear manageable, just because of the ease of the interface. Granted it wasn't exatly conducive to total conversions, but it let many many more people at least see that modding was an option. As of right now, the Module System scares most people away from modding. If the UE was there, more people would start modding. So what if that meant more failed mods? The more mods started, the more chance of at least one of them winning through.
I agree with most of the things you said. The biggest problem beside the ultimate "naivity" (people have no idea what huge amount of work of varying difficulty modding involves) is the lack of good scripters.
Everyone can put a model or a texture together after reading or watching a tutorial. Post your 3D model...thread is full of these guys. And they volunteer as modelers to many mods, make two crappy models and get bored. And the modder is left with ten models or really different quality. It could be enough if he had a good scripter.
There are like...ten to fifteen people I think who can script well enough to create respectable mods here. Maybe I'm wrong and there's more of them, but I don't think so.
There are guys who can change items, factions, conversations...the gruntwork. But as said before, if you want to have a new gameplay in your mod, people like AW, Highlander, Yoshi, Mirathei, Hellequin and the like (I'm sorry if I forgot anyone, guys, I just woke up :smile:) are needed. Programmers who know algorithms, know how to create code to work in a certain way.
And they mostly have their own mods and don't have time to help just someone.
I have about two or three very good (imho :grin:) ideas for mods that I think would be absolutely great. I'm willing to do the art, I would even improve at lowpoly modeling so I could make most of the models. But I can't script for ****. Persuading one of these guys to start a completely new project with me would be hard...Even when the great minds join in a team, the results aren't often that great. I'm talking about the Order of the Big Lizard mod at MBX. It started as a really fun experiment, but in time everyone just kind of got back to their own mods..

Conclusion?...there will be big mods if people believe in them and if there are at least two or three people still pushing the cart and everyone along. The lesser mods will die in huge numbers, but the really good ideas will survive and people will make them and play them. Simple minimods like 300, fun containers of stuff like Eagle and the Radiant Cross (I mean..it's a bloody native with names changed and some new items! :grin: but it's so much fun...)...
Like many have said, few people seem to be willing to touch the Python code, which means most mods are dependent on a single scripter, which means it's an all or nothing affair. Warhammer mod is a good example; I'm the only one scripting for it, and I have an RSI related injury plus a full time job to juggle, on top of the usual social life et al. On top of this, I've had several occasions where I've just managed to get something almost working, and Armagan goes and chucks out a new version which either breaks, or else offers a much better way of achieving the same thing (like bloody villages). It's hard enough to get the scripting part working as is, without a race against the clock thrown in too.
Maybe the hardest part with scripting is that it can't be shared out very easily.  The python files all impact on each other to some extent, so it's not like I can say to you - "you do the scripts_py, and I'll re-write the simple_triggers stuff...."
One person has to do the scripting virtually solo....
Not necessarily, the way the scripts are designed one could easily farm out the troop editing, item editing and the like, and simply copy & paste into a file when you're done. In my own experience, these relatively simple parts are as time consuming as trying to get a more complicated script working. Conversations for example; any total conversion would need the entire dialogue (or most of it) changed, and a good 90% of that has little to do with actual scripting, it's just altering the actual lines people are saying to make sense in the context of the mod. Even having someone simply work through and change the phrases, while leaving the actual script alone, would save a huge amount of time for something like Warhammer. Yes, there'd be problems due to the inter-referencing, but I'd rather waste an hour or so doing a quick check that the files are correctly cross referencing than spend six hours creating 30 or so troop profiles from scratch (especially if it's something like a troop referencing a wrong item; that kind of thing should be spotted during testing and is relatively trivial to fix anyway). The problem is finding people who are willing to take a pop at it. I'm sure we could get enough modellers to give every single person their own model to work on, yet as soon as you mention anything ending in .py nobody is interested.

I think the community has a part to play in this too. I've seen several occasions where someone has proposed a mod idea, and has simply been shouted down. There's two problems with this:
Complaining about a lack of scripters is all very well, but this situation isn't ever going to change unless the community does something about it. All budding scripters have at the moment is a bunch of guides by Winter which are around four versions out of date (and incomplete), and the various discussions which have cropped up in the mod forums (from which it's pot luck whether you'll find what your looking for, or anything remotely useful to your own set of circumstances). Needless to say, it's not exactly the easiest way to pick stuff up. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people out there who are capable of scripting to a degree, even if it's simply adding your own troops or items.
More guides would of course help. Or allow would-be scripters to participate in a portion of the script work for your mod, even if it's simply adding troops or the like. A good project for any scripter with time on their hands would be some tutorial mods - a mod with some minor, documented changes to the script to allow people to experiment with making their own alterations.
The second is the tendency to flame people who simply propose mod ideas. Like I've said before, if you have nothing useful to say, don't bother posting. In the first case, we'd be better served by encouraging them, even if you're not interested in the whole project ("You do x,y and z and I'll show you how to do a & b"). Also, people shouldn't underestimate the use of a project lead type position. They're essential in professional software development for a reason. I think some of the mods which fail, especially the larger projects, might have fared better with someone co-ordinating the mod. A good project lead will provide encouragement to the team, will set the short term goals the team should be aiming for and will also know when to push for something. They can also co-ordinate the feedback from releases, keep track of where the mod is currently act and keep development on track. They're especially important when you have a larger team.
Part of the problem is the concept of a "team" ...

Building a decent mod requires a BUNCH of stuff ... models, textures, scripting/programming, design ideas and literary talent, not to mention the possibility of research into historical, linguistic, or fictional sources to be used.  Very few people have the skills to do all of those things.

I do combat model statistics and game balance issues.  That's a fairly specialized topic (although it entails quite a bit), but I do it for a number of mods, on the understanding that this is about all I do, and that my skills in other areas are inadequate without substantial assistance.  I'm not the only one with a narrow range of skills ... many of the best model and texture people around are purely graphics people.  Some of the best historians are purely research people with no real computer skills at all.  (I do limited graphics work and some historical research as well, but some don't even generalize that much.)

Without some "team", in the sense of "enough people to provide the necessary skills and time commitment to cover all of those areas", the project will be doomed from the beginning.  A single hole in any one of these areas will stall the project indefinitely.

I advise would-be modders to get involved in someone else's mod for a while.  That will not only help you develop the skills you need, it will also give you a set of contacts (people who have worked with you before, or who are familiar with your work), so that you will know who to call when you need stuff. 

In contrast, I could probably start a major mod and get enough help to finish it, if I just had a good idea to start from, because a lot of good programmers and graphics people (especially the ones that frequent the MBX board) know me and respect my work, and so would be quick to help if they could.  I just currently have no such ambitions, as the dozen or so projects I am currently involved with are more than enough to keep me quite occupied at this hobby (although I will still take on additional projects, if any RCM fans are interested... provided they accept that, if any of the really major mods needs me, they will have to wait in line).
"Team, team, team... I even like saying the word. TEAM! :smile: You think that's a photo of my wife? NO! It's the A-Team!"

enough IT crowd :wink: Team is important and it's easier to make big mods in a team. Contrasting to this, there's Holy War (Raz made most of it himself) and Fantasy mod (which was pretty big and quite successful conversion before HEW dropped it..)..
In spite of doing pretty much all the programming aspect, Raz has had some help on HW as well.  I would know, as I was a fair-sized chunk of said help.  Same with Fujiwara doing much of OnR right now ... a lot of people have been involved in that project since it started, just many of them come and go and so only a couple of us are constant, but those other contributions add up.  Guspav's work on Mesoamerica is more individual than those others - except for my work with the combat model, he's done pretty much all of that one.  (Ironically, upon conversion to RCM, Mesoamerica balanced itself almost exactly as intended ... thanks to Guspav's virtually perfect historical research.)

Still, trying to make a mod yourself is a nightmare.  Intermittent help and a network of contacts can save you, even then ... but only if you are well-known and respected for your talent.  No matter how great your idea or how fantastic some of your skills might be, you will not get help unless you know some people.

If the person's first post on the board is "I have an idea for a mod" ... that one is probably doomed.

What happened to Fantasy mod?  I hadn't heard ....
I have no scripting ability. So my tactic is to come up with an idea and some shiny art, and then lure in some clever people :razz:

It is my opinion though, that pure "ideas people" kill a mod faster than anything. If you see a mod posted with no images or media, but a huge list of ideas.. the mod will generally fail. I bet there's a few examples on the front page as we speak.
thanks everyone - some really good answers there...

I'd venture, cautiously, that some people lack confidence.  I sometimes make a little mod for myself and think about uploading it to the repository, but then I don't bother because I know my work can't stand up alongside some of the mods like Craftmod, Last Days etc.
I've got no problems with the items and troops, I can even do odds and ends with other python stuff, but I haven't managed to make any decent gameplay alterations since .750 using the UE.

I'm sure there are plenty others out there who have added their own textures or weapons, tweaked the troops a bit, and played their personal mod but never thought for a moment about uploading it or even announcing it, because the 'fmaous' mods have set such a high benchmark....
Mini-mods ... projects that change a single element of game play ... are always popular, provided that the source code is provided freely so larger projects can incorporate the change.  That is one way to get involved in other mod projects.  It lures other modders to ask you to do the same for them, or at least set up something similar.

They can also get you an in-road on other mods by asking to do a mini-mod of their project.


...and I finally looked up the story on Highelf dropping Fantasy mod.  If somebody else wants to pick it up and port it, and can get him to give them the source codes, I will throw in a custom RCM conversion.  I always liked the big lizards.
I've done a bit in game development stuff, and im just nodding my head through all this.. game i was helping with just died a thousand deaths.. primarily because they were so cliquish and drove everyone away.. then fought with everyone IN the development team trying to make their idea the primary idea.. and assigning their own importance before other people.. :razz: was doomed..

but it taught me some great skills.. now im actually getting in to scripting and programming.. (just at the edge now) trying to decide what path i want to take.. they were building their game in java.. then rebol.. then java.. (they couldnt even decide on a language to use X.x) and neither of those were languages i was interested.. but python C++ and a couple others im curious about..

it boils down to.. anyone want some one under their wing to make a mess of their code? :razz:
Top Bottom